Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Can your “attention”, change you?

About a hundred years ago, scientists discovered a very unique characteristic of the smallest objects. At the quantum level, particles behaved differently when you “looked” at them. More precisely, these tiniest of particles, changed from a wave to a point, simply by being observed. When not being observed, they could exhibit wave like form. But the moment you turned your “attention” to them – they changed. They became pin points.

If you want to see a great rendition of this mysterious phenomenon, watch Dr. Quantum explain it with the help of the now famous double-slit experiment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc.

A hundred years after this discovery, we are still not sure why this is? We can replicate the experiment at will. Physicists have tried to “fool” the particles into somehow not “knowing” that they are being watched. Some of these experiments have been rather complicated and very clever. And yet, alas, the result has always been the same. You simply cannot fool these tiny particles. Look at them, and they will change. Every time!

About 2600 years ago, another scientist performed a very similar experiment. He did not have the labs available to his modern day counterparts. He did not even have microscopes. But he had, what in many ways, may be the ultimate laboratory – his own body.

He discovered, that if you moved your attention over your own body, and did this in a deliberate and careful scan, the nature of the tiniest particles of the body, would change (just like the double-slit experiment). Focus long enough, with enough practice, attention and discipline; and magic could happen. You might even become enlightened.

This ancient scientist, named this process Vipassana or insight. His name was Siddhartha Gautama. He lived in the India of old. Many of us know him today by his simple honorific – The Buddha.

Today, Vipassana meditation is the underpinning of Buddhist meditation and is a pillar of the oldest lineage of Buddhism – Theravada. It is the lineage taught by The Buddha himself.

What is Vipassana? Well, ‘insight’ can be a complicated thing.

However, in its simplest form, Vipassana meditation requires the practitioner to use a concentrated, focused and quiet mind, as the only tool, to scan each area of one’s own body with pure attention. You observe. And when you “feel” something on the observed part of the body - you move to the next part of the body. You might feel an itch, a breeze, a tingle, pressure, heat, cold – it could be anything. You simply observe it in a non-judgmental manner, and once observed, you move on to the next spot on your body. That simple.

And you scan your body again and again, over days, even months, or even years. The simple act of observation, changes the nature of our very being, particle by particle. And nothing more than observation is required to begin this process.

Today, we can see how experiments in the lab are overwhelmingly conclusive and provide resounding evidence that attention changes the nature of things. Literally!  
Turn your attention to yourself, and you too will change.

Evidence also suggests, you will likely change for the better. Vipassana meditation (and other forms of meditation) are known to make the practitioners more compassionate, more joyful,  peaceful and balanced, and increasingly happier. Matthieu Richard, a biologist who worked at the Pasteur Institute before becoming a monk in 1968, and who is now dubbed “the happiest person on earth” has been a meditator for over five decades. 


Attention, is a very powerful thing. ‘Watch’ where you look. You are changing your environment with your attention. You may even be changing yourself.


  1. Very interesting perspective.

  2. Feedback from brain activity to a body point is something that does not require meditation. We do it all the time throughout the day. The brain usually responds to signals from body and organs as its basic means of control. The opposite is equally occuring, just not as often. Thinking about sex is a good example. Some parts tend to respond vigorously...

    1. "Feedback from brain activity to a body point is something that does not require meditation"
      I don't believe that the author said that is was a requirement. However, to foster acute awareness, meditation is a highly useful method, and probably the most powerful. Also, isn't "thinking about" anything a form of mindfulness/meditation?